The Blue-crowned hanging parrot (Loriculus galgulus) is a member of the hanging parrot family of 13 species that lives mostly in the lowland forests from Thailand to Borneo. It is also known as the sapphire crowned hanging parrot and is the best known member of the family.
It is around 13cm in length with both birds having mostly green feathers. Adult males have a blue crown, a red rump and throat and yellow feathers on the lower back while females are duller and lack the yellow and red areas while the blue crown is less noticeable. Juvenile birds have a grey forehead and a horn coloured beak that turns black as they mature.
In the wild, they are found in mangroves as well as lowland forests and wooded areas up to 4300 feet. They can also be found in marshland areas as well as tall secondary vegetation and bamboo thickets. They can visit gardens and orchard as well as sugar and coconut plantations where they are considered a pest.
They live in pairs or in small family groups outside the breeding season where they use their plumage to camouflage themselves. At popular feeding places, they can congregate in large groups, especially on an evening when they gather to roost in the bushes and as many as 150 birds has been seen at one time.
They are kept infrequently in the UK as captive birds but are very popular pets in Malaysia, where they are kept in pumpkin-shaped cages that have wide bars. This is because due to their diet, they have very watery and messy droppings and this style of wide-barred cages allows these droppings to fall through. However, these cages are not ideal in size as can leave the birds cramped and having little room to move around. A more suitable spacious cage would have a backdrop of plastic to help prevent the spread of the droppings.
These birds gained their name of hanging parrots due to their habit of roosting upside down. It is thought this is to deter nocturnal predators and they are the only type of bird known to use this tactic. In parts of their range, they are known as bat parrot because of it. The habit is so automatic that they will even hang upside down when resting during the day. A good sign that one of these birds may be unwell is a reluctance to hang upside down.
They can live outside during the warmer months in this country but do need warmth during the colder months so will either need a heated aviary or to be brought inside for winter.
In a flight, the will enjoy a well-planted home and will use the moisture from plants to bathe as opposed to a bath bowl or a pond. They can live well with finches, doves and other similar sized parrots such as the grass parakeets though their droppings can make them a messy resident. They also clean their beaks on perches frequently meaning that these may need cleaning or replacing more often than normal.
Hanging parrots are very active birds that make use of all of their home, flying and climbing and can quickly learn to trust their keeper and become quite tame. They are not particularly noisy birds that make good pets and good aviary birds.
They do have a tendency to get overgrown nails so to help combat this, keep a wide diameter perch of hawthorn or other hard wood to help them wear the nails down. Also due to the watery nature of their droppings they can be prone to fungal infections so hygiene needs monitoring with them to prevent any problems or to spot and treat them quickly if something does occur.
In the wild, they live on the edges of forests, bamboo thickets as well as parks and gardens and their diet is based on seeds, fruit and insects. They are also nectivores so they will head to any flowering tree and this makes them a pest around orchards and sugar plantations. A favourite fruit in the wild is the rambutan, a high protein fruit a bit like a lychee.
In captivity, they will enjoy the buds from plants such as buddleia and similar shrubs as well as eating seeds and a wide range of fruit and vegetables. Sometimes they will prefer seeds that have been soaked to soften them. Favourite fresh foods include pomegranates, grapes, cucumber, figs, apples, berries, bananas and pears. They will also eat egg food and hardboiled egg yolks.
For the nectar side of their diet, use an artificial nectar and pollen mixture suitable for lorikeets. Provide this to them in a proper nectar bottle because if offered in an open dish, they will get it on themselves and make a mess of their feathers.
The male bird displays to the female bird by racing along the perch and bobbing his head while his red throat and rump feathers are raised. He also makes a buzzing sound.
In the wild, they nest in tree cavities but a nest box will be used in captivity. One suitable for lovebirds is a minimum though some birds will prefer larger ones that allow them to ‘furnish’ it as they please. They will add willow bark and leaves to the nest box along with feathers. Three or four eggs are laid and incubated by the hen for around 21 days. The chicks fledge at 35 days. They are not considered to be a particularly easy species to breed so patience is needed.
Some pairs feed their young on seeds while others use live food such as mealworms so options should be kept for them to pick as preferred. The male will collect food and take it to the female in the nest. Sometimes non breeding birds will help in the rearing of the young and can be identified by their beak and feather colour as adult plumage doesn’t come in until two or three years of age.